Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lazy, Rainy Saturday

Yeah, Mittens, you're's just that kind of day:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review: Chocolate Chip Oreo

 You know, I'm honestly not a big cookie eater--my late-night snack of choice is usually something salty, like popcorn with melted butter and some grated parmesan cheese on top. Nom!

And yet, because of all the Oreo "Limited Edition" reviews I've done, it's gotten to the point where friends will immediately post photos of the newest flavors on my Facebook timeline as soon as they're announced.  Such was the case with this latest flavor, Chocolate Chip Oreo.

Quick take: yeah, they're okay, but I think the bar should be pretty high for a cookie that is ANOTHER cookie. I mean, Nabisco wasn't exactly taking a big risk with one.  

The filling is definitely the best part--it's more like cookie dough icing, but not overly sweet.The thing is, I love a good chocolate chip cookie as much as the next person, and the Oreo sandwich cookie version is a poor substitute.

My recommendation to Nabisco: release the chocolate chip creme filling on its own, with cookie dipping sticks instead. That way, you can get a higher ratio of creme to cookie, or better yet, just eat the filling straight and dip the cookie part in milk. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Controversy Over Melania Trump's RNC Speech

Last night, Melania Trump gave what was lauded as a rousing, heartfelt speech at the Republican National Convention, praising her patriotic husband Donald while recounting her own path to becoming a proud, flag-waving American citizen.

The only trouble is, some of her words sounded awfully familiar, and it wasn't long before people realized that several portions of her speech appeared to be "liberally borrowed" from the rousing, heartfelt speech that Michelle Obama gave in 2008.


For a Media Studies junkie like me, who has also written a decent number of political campaign speeches and worked on election campaigns, I love seeing what happens next in instances like these. THIS is the kind of debacle that really shows what your consultants are worth.

Let's get one thing out of the way first: despite her assertions, there is NO WAY Melania Trump wrote that speech on her own.  She's claiming she had "a little help."

Anyone who listened to her deliver the speech in her heavily-accented English, tripping over the words in several places, struggling to pronounce many of them clearly. knows that most of this speech was written FOR her, not BY her.  One of the trickiest things I encounter when writing a speech for someone else--particularly those in the political realm--is to make them sound as though they have a great way with words, while still making them sound like themselves.  The challenge: if they were that great with words, they wouldn't need me.  It's not easy, but it can be done--unfortunately, it takes some experience to pull it off, and by all accounts, most of the people Donald Trump has chosen to surround himself with haven't spent much time in the political arena. The same trait that makes him attractive to so many people as a "Washington outsider" practically guarantees that this kind of screw-up is bound to happen during the campaign.

Here's how I suspect it all went down: Donald assigned one of his many inexperienced hacks to help his beautiful wife make a pretty speech.  The misguided (probably under 30) political consultant who was in over his or her head immediately started using search engines for "Great Speeches by Candidates' Wives at National Conventions" (because that's what researchers who have no idea how to survive in a world without Google do) and came across Michelle Obama's words from 2008.   Helpful notes were jotted down that were meant to "inspire" Melania, and the little Missus ended up lifting the suggested paragraphs almost word-for-word.

According to this article in Politico, the spin coming out of Trump's campaign confirms this: In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life's inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking," according to Senior Communications Advisor Jason Miller.

Well, there you go.  Guess what guys? That still doesn't make it okay.

Besides the fact that her "team of writers" (and I use the term "writers" with the utmost sarcasm) needs to be shown the door, if the Trump campaign really wants to fix this mess, their next step is to have Melania herself make a statement--one that is written plainly and directly so that it sounds like she actually said it herself.  And in that statement, Melania should say something along the lines of "The similarities in my speech reflect the fact that the feelings and ideas and values that I was raised with are truly Universal. No matter what your background or political affiliation, Democrat or Republican, the concept of keeping your word and working hard to achieve your dreams is one that speaks to all people. I am proud to be an American and proud to support my husband, who will bring these values back and make this nation great again."

Cue loud cheering and flag-waving.

A statement like the one I've suggested accomplishes several things: it allows Melania to stand up and speak for herself, rather than have a campaign flack do it; it provides an opportunity to reach out to Democrats and appear inclusive; it shields the embattled Melania in the cloak of patriotism and citizenship; and it brings it all back to the entire purpose of having her give a speech in the first place: to build up her husband's image and get him elected.

You're welcome, Trump campaign. (FYI: now would be a good time to take some notes.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Restaurant Review: The Mad Hatter, Sanibel, FL

My husband and I love dining at The Mad Hatter--it has traditionally been our choice for "date night" dinners when we've vacationing on Captiva.  We'd get the kids all set up with food (and a babysitter, when they were younger) back at the house, and enjoyed a delicious, upscale meal and attentive service that could compete easily with any fancy New York City restaurant experience,  but with a sunset beach view and casual, friendly atmosphere.

This year, though, we decided that it was finally time to bring all three girls to experience dinner at The Mad Hatter.  Our youngest daughter is 16, and although she's a very picky eater, we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. (I honestly thought she'd eat nothing but bread all night--I was wrong!)

We went on a special night--my 49th birthday. (a.k.a. STILL NOT 50)

The service was, as always, first-rate. The staff always seems to strike the perfect balance between attentive and unintrusive: they're knowledgeable about each menu item, offer recommendations freely, anticipate your drink refills before you even have to ask, and bring little "extra" tastings from the chef for you to try in between courses.

For once, I didn't obsessively take photos of every single thing we ate, but trust me, it was all absolutely wonderful. The staff was also very accommodating of my youngest daughter's particular ways, and served her dishes with all sauces on the side, customized exactly to her liking.  The menu selection was, as usual, varied and outstanding: from foie gras to filet mignon, we've never had a dish we didn't absolutley love.

The Mad Hatter--100% worth the trip.  (For reservations, call 239-472-0033)

Hudson Valley Foie Gras--a must have, even if you are
a die-hard animal lover horrified by the concept.
Birthday dessert--a tasting trio, because choosing
between decadent desserts is too difficult!
The view from inside the restaurant at sunset

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: Dinner at Il Tesoro, Sanibel, FL

We've been vacationing on Captiva Island for about 20 years now, and we've been to every restaurant on the island multiple times, so lately, we've been venturing out to Sanibel to expand our dining repertoire.  Tonight, we tried Il Tesoro for the first--and last--time.

Caprese salad, drenched in balsamic, $15
The restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside, but the inside is different from most other island places: instead of a bright, airy theme reminisent of the tropics, Il Tesoro is dark, with an eclectic decor.  There are Edison style bulb light fixtures and exposed pipes in the ceiling, with indoor awnings framing the windows.

The tables are fine, but the wooden chairs---oof, extremely uncomfortable. It was amazing how, even though there's almost a foot of height difference between my husband and I, we both had the backs of our chairs digging into our spines within minutes of sitting down. And, lest you think it has to do with being "too large" for the chairs (how dare you!) my 5' 2", 98 pound daughter had the same issue. The restaurant itself is quite small, and with the kitchen just off the entrance, the tight room heated up quickly once other diners filed in and took their seats.
Is this really $30 worth of pasta?

Our waiter was accommodating, especially when my daughter's caprese salad arrived with a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar poured on top and she balked.  She prefers to control the amount herself, and another one was brought out quickly with vinegar on the side. (Several of our dishes came with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top, including my eldest daughter's chicken dish and my pasta entree, which was a bit odd.)
Pollo Milanese, $23, a better value
than most menu items, but you better
like balsamic vinegar

Unfortunately, when the dinner entrees came out, mine was incorrect--not sure if it was the waiter's mistake or the kitchen, but I ended up having to wait while everyone else felt really guilty about digging into their food.

I had ordered the pasta special, cheese-filled "pasta pockets" with a gorgonzola cream sauce, and it took a really long time to finally emerge from the kitchen.  Once it came, it was such a small amount of pasta--10 small dumplings only slightly larger than standard tortellini--my husband immediately asked if it was actually an appetizer portion. It wasn't, and the cost: a whopping $30.

The food itself was absolutely delicious--I would give it a solid 4 stars out of 5--but it was definitely NOT worth the price tag.  We've had much better meals at Captiva House (Tween Waters Inn) and The Mad Hatter, with better service and fantastic atmosphere. 

Pappardelle Bolognese, $19
Overall, we were underwhelmed, and ended up skipping dessert.

Final verdict: we were glad we tried someplace new, but would not eat there again. 

The Perfect Morning

Day 2 in Captiva: The sun is shining, yet there's a glorious thunderstorm grumbling outside.

The house is quiet--the girls are still fast asleep and Rich & I are enjoying a cup of coffee. I'm reading the morning paper online, well-rested and relaxed from the lack of responsibilities. No dog to walk, no cat to feed, no laundry to do (yet).  

A perfect morning.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Vacation time!

Today's the day my family and I have been looking forward to for months: the day we leave for a weeklong vacation in Southwest Florida. We rent a house on Captiva Island, our favorite destination for sunny, lazy beach days.

LaGuardia Airport is already hopping--to be expected during July 4th weekend--but even without pre-check lines security is moving well. We had breakfast in the Centurion Lounge (thanks American Express) and will be boarding JetBlue shortly. 

Many people find travel stressful, but I've finally managed to develop a Zen attitude when I fly. I think it's come from all of the years of having things go wrong--air sick children, lost luggage, flight delays--and powering through it. At this point, I've learned to accept the inevitability of inconvenience when traveling, and that has allowed me to just go with the flow. 

"This too shall pass" is the motto for travel days. Soon I'll have my feet in the sand and a view of the Gulf of Mexico stretching out before me, and it'll all be worth it.